TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WFLA) — Florida discontinued daily COVID reporting on June 4 because cases were falling and vaccinations were rising, but as cases now climb, the state is refusing to restart daily COVID data reports.
The result is a new lawsuit seeking to force the state to again make public what was once public.
When Florida stopped publishing its daily COVID reports in June, the COVID picture was improving.
The state was in effect, declaring the emergency over.
“As vaccines have increased, the cases have decreased,” said Deputy Secretary for Health Dr. Shamarial Roberson in a June interview.
On June 3, some of the last daily published data showed 2.3 million total COVID cases.
New data shows 3.2 million cases.
”I don’t want to have to sue the state,” State Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith said.
Now Smith and the Florida Center for Government Accountability are suing after requesting the data and being told it is not longer a public record.
“I’m asking for the exact same public health data that used to be available on the COVID daily dashboard reporting,” Smith said.
In a statement emailed to us, DeSantis Press Secretary Christina Pushaw told us the suit really has no merit because the data is given to the CDC Monday through Friday.
“Public health surveillance and controlling the spread of infectious diseases have always been core functions of the Florida Department of Health,” Pushaw said. “FDOH reports data routinely and automatically to the CDC, which in turn updates its national COVID dashboard on a daily basis Monday through Friday.”
But Smith countered local schools need data more than ever.
“Local school board leaders and school superintendents who need access to local covid transmission trends, data, hospitalizations as it relates to children in their area,” Smith said.
Nikki Fried, Florida agricultural commissioner and possible DeSantis opponent in 2022, has also been asking for the data for weeks.
“So I am encouraged by the fact that people are finally stepping up to this administration that is not complying with laws every single day,” said Fried.
Under Florida law, an agency denying a lawful public records request is subject to paying everyone’s attorneys fees.
Those suing are asking for an expedited hearing, which is provided for in the public records statute.
They said they are likely to get their day in court in a week or two.